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Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Genocide, denial, and truth-as-a-victim are just a few of the big subjects dealt with by Booker prize-winning Indian author and activist Roy (The God of Small Things) in this essay collection, written with fluid precision and acute rage. Covering rampant injustices in India and Kashmir perpetrated by governments and corporations, most in the past decade, Roy is unfailingly eloquent, sorting through a complicated network of special interests and partisan governmental groups to reveal nuances of corruption and oppression even to non-nationals. Roy worries that "the space for nonviolent civil disobedience has atrophied," but finds hope and joy in developments including the "hundreds of thousands of unarmed people" returning to Kashmir "to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas," and a generation raised in "army camps, check-posts, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a sound track" who have "discovered the power of mass protest and, above all, the dignity of being able to... speak for themselves." Roy details genocide instigated by Hindu interests against Muslims, revisits the recent Mumbai massacre, and pleads the people's case as vast rural areas are drained of resources while the Indian ruling class concentrates on corporate globalization. The Bush administration also comes in for scathing criticism in this vivid inside look at India's turbulent growth.

About the Author

Arundhati Roy studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives. She is the author of the novel The God of Small Things, for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize. The novel has been translated into forty languages worldwide. She has written several non-fiction books, including Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers and Capitalism: A Ghost Story, published by Haymarket Books.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160846024X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608460243
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is the second book that I have read this month which was recommended by Noam Chomsky. Field Notes on Democracy by Arundhati Roy is a shocking report of the hollowing-out of democratic values in India. It is brilliantly written, as was her novel, The God of Small Things. However, this book, unlike the novel, is as unlovely as torture, greed, pillage, waste and wholesale murder can be. It is a non-fiction account of how the world's largest democracy has had its concepts of social justice eroded by unbridled growth, corporate greed, destruction of the environment, and a government run by vested interests and touts. "Most chilling of all, writes Chomsky in his review, "is that much of this grim portrait is all too familiar to the West."Which, of course, brings me to the other book which I read following Chomsky's recommendation: Michael Hogan's Savage Capitalism and the Myth of Democracy. Here we see the same processes at work, not only in Latin America where Hogan lives and works, but also in the monolith to the north.
These two books are companion pieces of East and West, especially attractive to readers like me who appreciate reality being cogently and elegantly expressed by social activists and are not ideologues but thoughtful and compassionate human beings who sincerely work to make a difference in the area where they live: for Roy, India; for Hogan, Latin America. They both bring us news of a real world and the demise of democracy on the altar of progress. As Ed Abbey once wrote, "Unlimited growth has the etiology of the cancer cell. Its ultimate goal is the destruction of its host."
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Format: Hardcover
The author points out that the current system of pretend to be democracies around the world have way too much representation with way too little democracy. These governments are need structual adjustments. Now for those not familiar with the draconian IMF/World Bank structural adjustments, forced upon governments in need of loans, they are designed to suck the life blood of society by extreme cuts to education, health care, infrastruture, local agriculture, local ANYTHING. Because in the international Help Business, local is a very bad four letter word, no matter how you choose to spell it: local is to be extermintated with extreme prejudice. So when the author writes that democracy is in need of structural adjustment, she means it in the normal way, not the Orwellian double-speak of the international instruments of international banks/transnational corporations. So, it is her play with words that cut deeply into the sinister character of the players in The New World Order, that are very soothing to my nature. The more deep and sharp the meaning, the more pleasure to my reading. And reading Arundhati Roy is, I assure you, extreme pleasure.
She says that today's democracies, under the current the stewardship, have fused with the free markets, into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of Maximizing Profit.
She refers to her India as the world's largest demon-crazy(as a Kashmiri protester once put it).
In today's privitized global march, freedom means choice, nothing to do with the human spirit, but alot to do wuth different brands of deoderant. Justice has to do with human rights(and of those, as they say, a few will do).
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In "Field Notes on Democracy" Arundhati Roy argues that India resembles a pseudo-democracy considering Muslims are being slaughter and relegated to second class citizen status, and since 9/11 the Indian government has used this U.S. tragedy as an excuse to further their genocidal program against these people. According to Roy, "The Muslim community has seen a sharp decline in its fortunes and is now at the bottom of the social pyramid, along with Dalits and Adivasis." The Adivasis are the indigenous inhabitants of India, while the Dalits are the oppressed. This is all transpiring because of the ideology of the Hindu Rashtra, which means Hindu nation.
Political parties such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, and the Bharatiya Janata Party are pushing their extreme rightwing agenda upon the general populace, and Arundhati Roy's essays emphatically thrust this issue to the surface, calling for immediate action. The main point she makes throughout this book is if India continues its political/sociological backslide; then democracy (mob-rule) as they perceive it will metastasize "into something dangerous," which means it will become a Failed State.

Most of the time when we contemplate on what a Failed State is we think of countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, we rarely look at countries such as India. Roy compares what's happening to Muslims and other groups in India to the 1915 Armenian genocide orchestrated by the Ottoman Turkic in Anatolia. The Armenians were the largest Christian minority living under their rule at the time.
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